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The Top 10 Collections of the Fall 2019 Season

Curated for you via Vogue.

Our Fall 2019 top 10 list paints a compelling picture of current fashion, nearly evenly split between women and men designers, and right down the middle in terms of talents fronting their own labels and creative directors leading heritage houses. Clothing-wise, it gives you the most compellingly inventive tailoring of the season, and the most irresistible dresses; dark glamour and heavenly uplift.

These collections represent the final season of the 2010s—the end of a decade. It’s tempting to look at them through that prism, and ask bigger than usual questions. Especially considering that the events that happened off the runways this month—Karl Lagerfeld’s passing on the eve of Milan Fashion Week, and this week’s news that the Calvin Klein brand would move forward without formal shows—augur much change. Lagerfeld’s appointment to Chanel in 1983 set the standard for the creative director system by which much of fashion still operates today, but the Calvin Klein announcement throws that system’s future into question.

How can designers and brands maintain relevance in an interconnected, everything-at-our-fingertips world, and with so much vying for our attention? At least one good example sprang from Paris Fashion Week. Coperni’s Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant spent the money they might’ve otherwise used for a traditional fashion show on a “choose your own adventure” Instagram experience with a cast of Paris and New York insiders sporting looks from their debut collection. It was thoroughly engaging, and the clothes looked great, too: streamlined, efficient, and priced to move. Clever thinking like Meyer and Vaillant’s—and like that of the designers on this list—will keep this industry vital as we barrel into the 2020s. For now, though, let’s celebrate these fin de décadesignifiers: feathers, major, major shoulders, multigenerational runways (at last!), and a timely touch of camp.

Here, in chronological order, the top 10 collections of Fall 2019.

Rodarte

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Rodarte

The line the Mulleavys continue to walk in all of their work—fashion, cinema, performance—between hard and soft, tacky and transcendent, erotic and innocent, horror films and heavenly visions, is compelling, challenging, and crazy fun to behold. To borrow from Beyoncé (herself no stranger to musicals and iconicity), Rodarte trades in both sweet dreams and beautiful nightmares. Why turn the lights on? —Sally Singer

Marc Jacobs

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Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs has been exploring hyper-proportions for a couple of seasons now, via the 1980s silhouettes of Claude Montana and Yves Saint Laurent. Grand shapes were back again for Fall, but this time Jacobs was looking in the mirror, rather than at the couturiers of old. His repertoire is full of cloth coats and capes, of shredded tulle party dresses, of A-line skirts and crewnecks, of Prince of Wales pantsuits. Only here, in many cases, they were taken to extremes, the coats and capes pumped up with air, the dresses made more expressive with layers of crinolines. Stephen Jones–designed hats on nearly every model added inches to their stature. —Nicole Phelps

Simone Rocha

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Simone Rocha

As pretty and compellingly wearable as Simone Rocha’s clothes are—and this season’s casting went further than ever to underline that—there was something dark lurking within her research. On one level, she said it came from viewing the work of film director Michael Powell, who made The Red Shoes, and from his controversial horror movie Peeping Tom, about a voyeuristic cameraman/serial killer who murders women as he films them. (The 1960 movie’s sadistic content was regarded as so outrageous that it was banned for a long time, and it effectively ended Powell’s career.) On another level, the collection was an acknowledgement of Rocha’s formative attachment to the work of Louise Bourgeois, whose themes were also a startlingly honest struggle between tenderness and sexuality, often expressed in fabrics and textiles. “I found her series of weavings, which she’d made with fabric from her own clothes, particularly beautiful,” the designer said. —Sarah Mower

Prada

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Prada

Prada-philes will love this collection because it was, at its core, very, very Prada. Not because there were, as ever, many great swaggering coats. Not because the dresses nodded to a demented Kim Novak or an inscrutable Eva Marie Saint. Not because there was a shoe in balletic pink with a plexi-heel or a thick-soled brothel creeper for one of those slushy-street, death-of-sex dates. It was very Prada because it spoke so clearly to the twin impulses that both define and daunt the Prada woman: I know what really matters, and I also really love fashion. Such a beautiful, bad romance. —S.S.

Paco Rabanne

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Paco Rabanne

Yes: Terms that were banned from the lips of the fashionable while streetwear and athleisure reigned are now being rehabilitated—couturetailoring, and glamourbeing top among them. It’s not just a mechanical swing of the pendulum from one thing to the opposite, but a psychological response to events. Paco Rabanne’s Julien Dossena understands exactly why: “It’s about how you uplift yourself through dress. In the end, that’s all we expect from fashion. You know—that thrill when you wear something special? It gives you power; it gives you confidence.” —S.M.

Rick Owens

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Rick Owens

The second half of this Rick Owens show was focused on evening. Thick swaths of Fortuny-printed jersey spun asymmetrically around the torso à la [Charles] James, only his grand ball skirts were missing in favor of hip-slung wraps trailing floor-scraping trains. Bias-cut blood red columns were more covered-up, but no less sexy considering the gestural, figure-hugging way Owens draped them. The red dresses seemed like they could be nodding in the direction of the red gown [Larry] LeGaspi’s wife, Val, wore to their sole appearance at the Costume Institute’s Met Gala in 1979. Fascinatingly, Owens said that James and LeGaspi shared models. “There was a crossover. Totally different worlds, but they appreciated each other.” On the designer continuum, Owens’s legacy will be right up there alongside that of James; there will be museum retrospectives. But who can resist that subversive streak? —N.P.

Loewe

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Loewe

Whether or not Jonathan Anderson has deliberately set out to fill the Phoebe Philo void in fashion, his Fall collection for Loewe stepped in and did that in its own way—without the kind of “Old Céline” mimicry that has sophisticated women rolling their eyes. The proof: his knack for smoothing away the contradictions between simple, clean silhouettes and craft and texture, between a sense of now and an honoring of history. “It’s quite strict and crafted,” he said. “Craft under a microscope. It became about reducing things. How do we see silhouette?” —S.M.

Balenciaga

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Balenciaga

Here are one or two things that stood out: Demna Gvasalia’s retooling of Cristóbal Balenciaga monastic silhouettes as “incognito” high collars and hoods that obscured the wearer’s face from side view—an extreme, intellectually witty extension of Gvasalia’s reputation as a maker of hoodies. The erasure of trainers, dad-like or otherwise, in favor of square-toed black leather shoes and new high boots for men. The young men carrying fistfuls of B-branded shopping bags. “It’s real,” said Gvasalia. “When I’m on the streets of Paris, that’s what I see.” —S.M.

Alexander McQueen

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Alexander McQueen

To research this Alexander McQueen collection, Burton took her team to northern cities outside of Manchester, to Macclesfield, where she was raised, and nearby towns where mills still produce the textiles used for men’s suits in the United Kingdom and abroad. For the show, the audience sat on bolts of fabric from these mills, the very made-in-England wools used in the collection (both for the samples and, ultimately, the production). Burton wanted to showcase the products, tradition, and culture of the England in which she was raised: the woolens, the local festival traditions (in which there are rose queens), the history of suffrage and its white-clad campaigners, the Brontës (regional heroines), and the codes of punk and new wave, which are ingrained in Burton even if she is too young to have seen Joy Division before it all went tragic. There is a silver dress in the collection that appears to be made of elongated metal paillettes, but the show notes reveal it was made from a loom’s heddles cut into sequins and studded with bugle beads. The noise the dress makes as one walks is meant to mimic the sound of a shop floor. And there is a coat of Prince of Wales check in which the skirt is covered in a swirly, ruffled embroidery made from the scraps of selvage edges left on the cutting room floor. This coat is one of the chicest nods to upcycling in any collection, and perhaps the only instance of upcycling from a major house this season. It is both elegant and relevant. And this is perhaps the real triumph of Burton’s collection. —S.S.

Chanel

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Chanel

There was an icicle-like tinkling on the soundtrack. Models assembled, one by one, on the snow-covered steps of a faux alpine hostelry, the Chanel Gardenia. It was hard, the suppressed anticipation of what was going to happen next. What is the correct form for honoring someone at a fashion show, someone who was always so fixed on waving away vulgar sentimentality, and who always had something hilariously skewering to say about the posthumous hagiographies of anyone he cared to mention? Karl Lagerfeld was the least sentimental of people. He loved his job and always regarded it as the task of continually living in the present. He reveled in letting it be known he had a “contract for life” with Chanel, which he enjoyed to the maximum moment. —S.M.

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